Murray heats up Player of the Year race, more U.S. Open thoughts
Surely there's a formula to accurately determine Player of the Year in men's tennis. Perhaps there should be no discussion until the year-end championships in London.
Then again, why bother with such trifles? Let's just hand Andy Murray the award and be done with it.
There was a marvelous symmetry to this year's Grand Slam season. For the first time since 2003, it was a four-man affair: Novak Djokovic at the Australian, Rafael Nadal at the French, Roger Federer at Wimbledon, Murray at the U.S. Open. To put it another way, eight years had passed with at least one of the Big Three winning multiple majors.
Now that the standings are even, this award is best gauged on the emotional scale. As Murray basks in the glory of sustained applause, I'd imagine those other three men are altogether sympathetic.
The Player of the Year cannot be Nadal, not the way his knee injury so badly curtailed his summer. It can't be Federer, although his career resurgence was marvelous to behold. Djokovic has the credentials, but he had a letdown year in the wake of his 2011 dominance.
Murray's season -- Wimbledon final, Olympic title, first British man to win a major since 1936-- is the one we'll remember. It wasn't just a soul-satisfying breakthrough for Murray, or tennis-starved Scotland, or the whole of Great Britain. It was amajor development in tennis, lending great promise to 2013 and sweeping up the public's attention along the way.
Wrapping up the Open on other fronts:
The trick now, for Vika, is to keep her new life in order. She seems skeptical and dismissive by nature, hardly surprising for a woman who led a solitary existence in the transition from her native Ukraine to U.S.-based training. The No. 1 ranking is significant, if occasionally misleading (somehow, Serena remains No. 4). The greater accomplishment will be inheriting Williams' throne -- perhaps a year or two down the road -- and wearing that status with dignity. She truly grasped the big picture on Sunday, describing the experience as "priceless" and "a lot of fun," and concluding, "I feel like I'm in a place that I belong." Those are huge steps in the right direction.
Alas, dreamers, the tennis schedule is more rigid than The Changing of the Guard. But Courier and Justin Gimelstob had an interesting debate during a first-week rain delay, having to do with the Open's format. Courier, thinking strictly of building the tennis fan base, suggested spreading all the majors over 16 days, starting on a Saturday for favorable weekend viewing.
"I understand how it impacts tournaments the week before, but I'm sorry," said Courier, "these are our playoffs, when the non-tennis fan is finally paying attention. I love Winston-Salem, Eastbourne, New Haven, but they don't matter to the non-tennis fan, and those are revenue opportunities for players who
Gimelstob clearly appreciated the sentiment, saying "it would be great if we could start from scratch" with the entire tennis calendar. "But an extended schedule is not a viable alternative," he said. "It's a major puzzle. Too many moving parts."
Mary Carillo on CBS: "I haven't seen him smile yet, this tournament."
John McEnroe: "Haven't seen him smile this
Such a reaction is certainly more appealing than a refusal to shake hands, or an embittered rush to the locker room, but it's interesting. Does Raonic know, deep down, that he'll be a Top 5 player in time? Or does he figure he's reached his limit, and he's sufficiently delighted with the prospect?
One thing for certain: Raonic is properly appreciative of an opponent's greatness. After the Murray match, he admitted, "When I did get ahead in critical moments, he just did something I really have no answer for -- something I haven't really experienced."
Personal note: There's no clear or obvious solution to this problem, but it's been reported that the USTA would consider dismantling Ashe's upper level, then reconstruct it to allow for a more feasible installation of a roof.
Bingo. And thank goodness she's around. There couldn't be a more favorable confluence of factors -- major network, major final, weekend afternoon -- for some serious truth-telling on the subject.
Warming up before the match, Azarenka was shown to make a fair amount of noise, but "acceptable," said Carillo. "Now look at Maria. She doesn't make any noise when she practices. She doesn't make noise when she plays exos (exhibitions). It sounds like I'm coming down on them -- I'm angry at the people who decided that noise is OK. Don't you worry about the fans? Don't you have to listen to them?"
This turned out to be the tail end of Carillo's take, so I rewound it back to the beginning. All it took was a clever graphic -- including "Grunts" on the Match Summary chart -- to get her started.
"They're not even grunts," she said. "A lot of this stuff is screeching and barking and ... I don't know what you call the sound that Azarenka makes."
Carillo noted that the WTA undertook an exhaustive study, "hearing from world-class coaches, grunticians and gruntologists, and they've decided the current crop of grunters can play the rest of their career sounding like this, but they're gonna stop future, would-be grunters. They're saying, after much study, that what these two do is an ingrained motor skill and it would be hard to ask them to un-ingraine."
That's such a laughable "finding," it's incredible the WTA would attach its name to such nonsense. As Carillo pointed out, athletes constantly adjust or abandon certain motor skills to improve their performance.
"I'm disappointed, to say the least," she went on, "that the Women's Tennis Association couldn't come up with something more than stopping juniors, who no one has paid hundreds of dollars to watch. So this is the message: "See these two best players in the world?
At this point, McEnroe noted that young girls shriek like crazy at his academy, because they're trying to imitate the stars.
"Well, you have to stop that, John," said Carillo. "Because no one else will."